The Plimpton Prize for Fiction is a $10,000 award given annually to a new voice in fiction first brought to national attention in the pages of The Paris Review. The prize is named in honor of George Plimpton, the editor of the The Paris Review for its first fifty years, and reflects the magazine’s commitment to publishing unknown or little-known writers of exceptional merit. Over the years, The Paris Review has published some of the earliest works of such writers as Jeffrey Eugenides, Elizabeth Gilbert, Ha Jin, Jack Kerouac, V. S. Naipaul, Philip Roth, and Mona Simpson.
The judges for this year’s Plimpton Prize for Fiction were Paris Review board members Peter Matthiessen, Jeanne McCulloch, and Robert Silvers. The prize, which was established following George Plimpton’s death in 2003, is underwritten by board president Terry McDonell and board member Sarah Dudley Plimpton, George’s widow. This year, after several years’ hiatus, the prize money was doubled to $10,000.
Philip Gourevitch, the editor of The Paris Review, has called Benjamin Percy “a writer of enormous power, a passionate and vivid voice from deep in the American vein. He writes with the special urgency and clarity of a young man with a great deal to tell us about ourselves. He is, in short, precisely what the Plimpton Prize exists to honor.” “Refresh, Refresh” is about young men in rural Oregon who are rendered fatherless by the Iraq war when the town’s reservists are called to active duty. Since the story was published in The Paris Review, it was read on National Public Radio as part of “Selected Shorts,” chosen for Best American Short Stories 2006, and awarded a Pushcart Prize. It is also the title story of Percy’s second story collection, which Graywolf will publish in October of 2007. His first book, The Language of Elk, was published by Carnegie Mellon University Press in 2006. Raised in the high desert of central Oregon, Percy currently lives with his wife and son in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he teaches writing at Marquette University.
Benjamin Percy says: “My wife and I are drowning in daycare costs and student loans. The very generous prize money is more than an honor—it’s an enabler that will not only help me carve out more writing time, but also alleviate some of the financial and psychic strain we're experiencing right now. I can't say thank you enough—to The Paris Review and to the Plimpton estate.”
The Plimpton Prize for Fiction will be presented to Mr. Percy at the Paris Review Spring Revel on April 23rd at the Puck Building in New York City. Also at the Revel, Norman Mailer will receive The Paris Review’s Hadada Award, given annually to a distinguished member of the literary community who has made a strong and unique contribution to the cause of literature. Past Hadada recipients are Barney Rosset, William Styron, Joan Didion, and George Plimpton, who was awarded posthumously. The Hadada will be presented to Mr. Mailer by E. L. Doctorow. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg will salute the evening’s award winners and the magazine at the Revel. The benefit chairs are Peter G. Peterson and Joan Ganz Cooney. The Paris Review, America’s essential international quarterly of new writing, was recently named a finalist for two 2007 National Magazine Awards—in feature writing and photojournalism. Additionally, the story “Balto” by T. C. Boyle, which was published in the Winter 2006 issue of the magazine, was selected by guest editor Stephen King for inclusion in Best American Short Stories 2007.